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Flu Emergency: When to Call a Doctor

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Serious Complications Associated With the Flu

Serious flu-related complications include:

  • Pneumonia, an infection of the lungs. Pneumonia is one of the most serious complications of the flu. Untreated, it can be life threatening.
  • Muscle inflammation (myositis)
  • Central nervous system disease
  • Heart problems such as heart attacks, inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis), and inflammation of the sac around the heart (pericarditis)
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes

 

Flu Emergency: Symptoms to Worry About

If you, or your child, develop any of the following symptoms, contact your health care provider immediately. You may have a serious flu-related complication that requires immediate treatment.

  • Coughing up blood- or green-tinged mucus; croup, which causes a loud barking cough
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or rapid breathing
  • Pain or pressure in the chest
  • Confusion
  • Bluish colored lips or nails
  • High fever that may cause convulsions in children

While a high fever is a common symptom of the flu, if your fever or cough linger for longer than expected or become particularly severe, call your health care provider.

 

 

Reye's Syndrome: A Flu Emergency

Reye's syndrome is a serious illness that occurs most often in children. It may follow infection with the flu or other viral diseases such as chickenpox, especially after taking aspirin. Reye's syndrome affects the liver and the brain. Although very rare, it can be life threatening.

Symptoms of Reye's syndrome include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion and delirium
  • Listlessness
  • Personality changes such as aggressiveness
  • Convulsions
  • Unconsciousness

Using aspirin seems to increase the risk of Reye's syndrome. This is why you should never give aspirin to children or teenagers without your doctor's approval.

What to Do In a Flu Emergency

If you or a family member has any signs or symptoms of a flu emergency, call your doctor right away, or go to the emergency. Do not delay. 

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on June 20, 2012
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